THUNDER BAY – Healthbeat – Imagine a place where you have input into how the healthcare system is run, not just doctors and nurses and administrators. You help decide crucial things like visiting hours policies, develop new programs, and even help hire management.
You can do that right now at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. Every committee and working group has at least one Patient and Family Advisor (PFA) – a member from the community like you and me, no medical background required. Their opinion is worth as much as anyone else’s and sometimes more due to their unique patient perspective.
And according to Keith Taylor, Chair of the Patient and Family Advisor (PFA) Team, patient satisfaction scores have gone up as a direct result.
“We went from below the provincial averages with our satisfaction rating to the top of the heap by a long shot,” Taylor said. “Our patients are much, much happier than they were three years ago.”
In fact, patient satisfaction scores started their climb to current levels just two months after the PFA program started.
In a nutshell, PFAs provide the patient perspective when it comes to creating new policies. For example, there have been over 200 committees and working groups at the Health Sciences Centre – and every single one of them have at least one PFA. Several initiatives like the changes to the visiting hours policy and developing the Paediatrics Tour for children scheduled for surgery have come directly from PFA input.
“That’s the core role of an Advisor: to share their story,” Taylor said.
It’s a system that is turning heads at hospitals across Canada and around the world. Last year Accreditation Canada recognized the Health Sciences Centre’s Patient and Family Centred Care (PFCC) initiative as a Leading Practice, the Gold Standard in healthcare. Taylor himself has been invited to the 5th International Conference on Patient- and Family-Centered Care in Washington, DC this June to talk about Thunder Bay’s approach.
There are similar programs at other hospitals around the country, but the Health Sciences Centre has a much wider scope than most. Whereas other institutions may have a handful of PFAs in limited roles, there are currently over 76 PFAs at the Health Sciences Centre at every level, including the hiring committee to fill 12 administrative and medical directorships.
“Whenever (administrators at the Health Sciences Centre) want to make a change here, they know they need to have input from a PFA,” Taylor said. “Not only do they have to because it’s part of their mandate, but they truly value having a Patient and Family Advisor on the team.
“When I sit on committees, I feel as important as the person next to me who’s making their paycheque being there. They treat you with respect and they want to hear your opinion,” he said.
Taylor said that there is usually room for more PFAs. He said that some prefer to sit on one specific committee while others sit on various committees over several years. Either way, everyone is more than welcome to give their input and make a positive change to our own healthcare.
For Taylor, it’s about helping improve healthcare now for patients down the road. “It feels good that I’m making a difference,” he said.
You can become a volunteer Patient and Family Advisor too. Please call Bonnie Nicholas at (807) 684-6020 or visit the Health Sciences Centre website for more information.
In the photograph: For Keith Taylor, becoming a Patient and Family Advisor (PFA) is about helping improve healthcare now for patients down the road. “It feels good that I’m making a difference.”